Charley Amblo Wins Coach Of Year Honor As Soccer Team Garners More Recognition
Not bad for starters.
In his first year as Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer coach, Charley Amblo has been voted the South-West Conference Coach of the Year for the Class LL/L programs; Notre Dame-Fairfield’s Whitey Budreckas received the recognition for the Class M and S schools.
Amblo’s honor follows up the Nighthawks capturing the Western Connecticut Soccer Officials Association as the winner of the Robert Stirling Sportsmanship Award.
Not only did the Nighthawks go 8-5-3 in the regular season, handing eventual conference champion Weston its only regular-season loss along the way and also defeating SWC finalist Joel Barlow of Redding during the regular slate, but they reached the SWC tournament semifinals despite an almost completely revamped roster from a season ago. All but four players who saw varsity playing time, including just two who had regular time on the field, graduated from last year’s team.
A completely new coaching staff, spearheaded by Amblo’s vision, set out to change the culture of the program — from the style of play to the collective attitude on and off the field.
“The whole coaching staff and the athletic staff did a nice job with the transition this year,” said Amblo, adding that the administration was also on board with implementation of a change in the tactical approach to the game. “I had a vision of what I thought the program should be doing, and they all agreed and supported me.”
“I’m not a big awards guy,” said Amblo, adding that it was a collaborative effort that led to him being recognized.
“The work of the coaching staff is defined by everybody fulfilling their roles and at least meeting expectations, if not exceeding the expectations,” Ambo said.
The NHS coach noted that the varsity and junior varsity coaches bounced ideas off each other and worked together throughout the fall. Amblo is assisted by Justin Stevens, a former professional goalkeeper who also served as goalkeeping coach for the Nighthawks. JV Coach Chris O’Heron also worked with the varsity squad around JV practices, Amblo noted.
“It was very nice — it was nice for the program. I definitely don’t look at it like something I garnered. I look at it as a collective effort,” Amblo said.
Amblo put a focus on a short passes and team ball control commonly found at higher levels and at all levels in Europe, where he played and coached at a variety of levels, including professionally, himself.
"The way he changed the culture from day one was extremely impressive. And from an athletic director's perspective it was everything you could want in a coach," said Newtown High AD Matt Memoli, who was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the team given all of last year's turnover.
"I thought if they come in and compete and play hard I will be happy. They definitely exceeded expectations. They competed all year," Memoli added.
“Now we have a strong foundation to build off,” said Amblo, who became Newtown’s third coach in as many seasons when he stepped in.
The Nighthawks were recognized for their team sportsmanship award at a banquet in Prospect on November 19. Amblo said it was nice to hear positive things from referees in attendance.
Newtown finished in second place, just two points behind winner Immaculate of Danbury, for the SWC's overall program sportsmanship award, which takes into account coach, player, and fan sportsmanship. Newtown’s ranked first in the coaching category and second in the player category.
“We did everything we were supposed to do this year,” Amblo said of the Nighthawks on the playing field and sideline.
Individual team honors were earned by All SWC First Team selections Owen Baillargeon and Cam Trivers — the only team members who received substantial playing time a year ago. All Colonial Division accolades went to Rilind Limani (who was hurt much of last year and missed the end of this season due to injuries), Thomas Briscoe (who saw varsity playing time late last season), and Garrett Mandarano. All SWC Honorable Mention went to Henry Vaughan.
Baillargeon, Trivers, and Mandarano were selected to the Connecticut Soccer Coaches Association Senior Bowl; the game will be played in Middletown the last weekend of November.
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